Most of us have a history of reinventing ourselves in different roles. Among the many we’ve held: child, sibling, parent, aunt/uncle, friend, spouse, student, volunteer, employee and employer. Yet as we keep ourselves busy in this incredible variety of roles, we can find ourselves awakening and wondering how the heck we got where we are today. Sometimes in our busy-ness, we haven’t created time to reflect how we got where we are, where we want to go, and how to build a roadmap to get there. This can be especially true with career reinvention.
When I began my working career after college, I had difficulty finding a job in my field. As a result, I accepted a position in a Fortune 500 company, thinking I would stay for a couple years. The next thing I knew, it was many years later and I wasn’t certain how I got there. Or what should come next. And I found myself surrounded by people in similar circumstances. At the same point I was beginning to experience concerns about what my work should be, I was in a serious car accident and needed several months of physical therapy. So suddenly, everything had to be reinvented… on the exterior and the interior. And then several years later, my company eliminated my position and I had to reinvent my life yet again, this time as an entrepreneur with a portfolio career.
Career reinvention requires creating time for reflection.
Create the opportunity to escape your family and your work to reflect. Buy a special notebook for this exploration. To begin, one of the most valuable tools for moving forward is taking time to look backwards. What were the things you loved doing as a child? What people or books have inspired you? What do you consider your most important life and work accomplishments? Which jobs and managers brought out your best performance? Which tasks make you feel you are in a zone of effortlessness?
Next, assess what you enjoy in your work today, as well as what frustrates you about it. Who do you admire – women or men – as examples of having careers and lives you respect? Interview them about what they have learned along the way and what gives them a sense of purpose. Ask people you trust what they see as your talents and strengths. Allow yourself the time to sift through patterns of what you have been asked to do over and over again because no one else has your talent for it. And most importantly, allow yourself to dream about what you would like more of in your future… what truly engages and inspires you? If you didn’t need to make money, what would you do with your talents and time?
Career reinvention doesn’t always mean changing where you work.
Assess if there is a way to create more passion where you are by changing your approach to what you do or by volunteering to add something new to the position. For example, when I was in a job I didn’t particularly enjoy, I volunteered to take on researching and delivering training that would help our management team come together more cohesively. It was a win/win. I got to utilize a part of me not being tapped into by my job and the company paid far less than an outside consultant would have cost.
As part of your reflection, buy career books and complete the exercises in them. Some to consider: No More Blue Mondays by Robin Sheerer; I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What it Was by Barbara Sher; and Work with Passion by Nancy Anderson. You may also want to consider using an assessment such as the Birkman, which can give you a deeper understanding of yourself and the career options that are best fitting to your natural strengths, how you are motivated, and what interests you in a career.
Be patient with yourself on the ever-evolving journey of career reinvention. The life and work you have today took time to develop and a change may as well. But the time will elapse whether you reinvent or not… so why not create something new that inspires you?